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Cockfighting Resurgence in Iraq

3 December 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq – As reported by Reuters: "The roosters furiously flap their wings and swipe razor-sharp claws at each other's necks as the crowd roars and the betting becomes frenzied. A man covers his face with his jacket as blood sprays in his direction.

"…Saddam Hussein tolerated blood sports but his policemen sometimes cracked down on gambling or demanded bribes.

"Since the president was overthrown in April cockfighting has become more popular than ever and diehard fans are enjoying the right to openly play the odds as roosters fight to the death.

"…Cockfighting has been practiced for centuries in Iraq.

"…Iraqis, who had no human rights for decades, do not understand why Western countries make a fuss over animals.

"…To strengthen their leg muscles, the birds are placed on exercise wheels. They are kept away from females to keep them angry.

"…Taxi drivers, engineers, accountants and labourers pack his grimy coffee shop every night as roosters size up their opponents. Some of the birds are imported from Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Thailand.

"…Cockfighting addicts drive across Iraq to Baghdad.

"…Members of Saddam Hussein's armed forces and presidential guards sometimes showed up for the action…"

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